The sixth United Nations secretary-general, Butros Butros Ghali, is the first from Africa or the Arab world. He follows a Peruvian, an Austrian, a Burmese, a Swede and a Norwegian in the post. It was Africa's turn, and Africa said so. Despite the jokes that the first African secretary-general was bound to be a white Christian, Mr. Ghali was one of six candidates endorsed by the Organization of African Unity. His appointment will be official when the General Assembly rubber-stamps the Security Council's decision.
Mr. Ghali is a scholarly and polished diplomat-intellectual, fluent in three of the United Nations' main languages, English, French and Arabic. He was architect of the peace diplomacy associated with Egyptian Presidents Anwar el Sadat and Hosni Mubarak. And his career hit a glass ceiling. He could never be foreign minister. He was deputy foreign minister and then deputy prime minister, but he could become only so visible in Egyptian politics because he is a Copt, a member of Egypt's Christian minority. Egypt is officially proud of its Coptic heritage, dating to Roman times, but in the street ferment of Islamic fundamentalism now shaking Egypt, some Copts are suffering harassment and worse. Mr. Ghali, immune from that in the ruling elite, is not only a Copt but married to an Egyptian Jew. He is not in President Mubarak's line of succession.